Disclaimer:  As always, Paramount’s

 
 

Rating:  R
 

 CLOSE TO HOME

By Mary S.
 
 

           The captain sat in her ready room, elbow deep in padds as she waded through reports of every description – mechanical, engineering, weapons, warp drive, impulse, environmental, the list went on and on.  Every department head on the ship had prepared at least one detailed report, in some cases two or three, on the condition of his or her domain.  As well, she had to organize the ship’s official logs, sensor logs, communications, personnel….and….she had to check and verify all the information submitted about every aspect of her ship and its crew.  In two days, Voyager would dock at Deep Space Nine.  They had done it.  They were in the Alpha Quadrant.  And Starfleet Command wanted every scrap of data she had collected on their long journey home.

           The door chimed, and at her reply, opened to admit Chakotay, laden down with still more padds.  She almost gasped in horror.

           “Not more!  There can’t be!”

           “ ‘Fraid so.  But I think these are the last of them.  Want some help?”

           “Ohh,” she looked up beseechingly.  “Would you?”

           “Of course.  I’ll just go and finish my report,” she rolled her eyes, “and then I’ll be back.  I won’t be long.”

           “Oh thank you.”

           He disappeared out the door just as Harry Kim signalled her that there was another top priority message from headquarters.  Good lord! she thought, don’t these people have anything else to do?!

           “Very well, Ensign.  Transfer it here.”

           “Aye, Captain.”

           She activated the monitor to receive and sat back to hear what on earth Starfleet wanted now.  Admiral Hayes’ face filled the screen.

           “Captain Janeway, this is a confidential message, for your eyes only.”  He paused, obviously waiting for her to clear the room.  “I will assume you are alone.  Captain, Command has decided to proceed with charges against Chakotay.  Therefore, I am ordering you to confine him to the brig, effective immediately.  I realize this action may cause you some inconvenience, but there is still an outstanding warrant for his arrest.  Regardless of extenuating circumstances, Command believes that, now that you have returned to Federation space, you must adhere to your original orders.”  He hesitated but clearly couldn’t think of anything else to say, and signed off.

           Janeway sat in her chair, speechless with fury and aghast at their vindictiveness.  How dare they just dismiss all the service and loyalty Chakotay had given her, and by extension – Starfleet, for seven years!  She was so angry that she was literally trembling.  What was she going to do!  What could she do!  Her mind began to analyze the options.

           She could follow orders – and not be able to look herself in the mirror ever again.  No, she owed him far too much to treat him so callously.

           Or, she could give him a shuttle, tell him to leave, take his people with him if they wanted to go.  The problem there was that dividing the crew now would be very difficult, if not impossible.  There were too many ties, too many bonds, between Starfleet and Maquis.  Tom and B’Elanna were a case in point; for that matter, so were she and Chakotay.  For better or worse, they were one crew now, not two.

           Then again, she could simply ignore the orders, act as if she had never gotten them, and when they reached Earth, tell Starfleet to go hang.  She rather liked that one.

           Before she could go any further, Chakotay returned, carrying only one padd, and wearing his most disarming smile.  “Where would you like me to start?”

           She decided to say nothing about the admiral’s orders, and handed him a stack of padds.  “Dig in.”

           Several hours later, they were sprawled on the couch surrounded by a much-diminished pile.  Chakotay put another padd on the table and leaned his head back on the sofa, closing his eyes.  “I’m not sleeping,” he announced defensively, “just resting my eyes.”

           “I didn’t say anything,” she replied sweetly.

           “You were going to.”

           “How do you know?”

           “I know.”  He rubbed his eyes.  “Five minutes, that’s all, just five minutes.”

           She stretched one hand across to his knee and patted it.  “I think I can spare you for that long.”

           He sighed and relaxed, slumping towards her.  In less than five minutes, she felt his head on her shoulder.  She looked at him, his eyes closed, breathing slow, sound asleep.  She smiled to herself and shifted enough to let him lie down, his head in her lap.  She tried to go back to the report in her hand, but her attention wandered to the man beside her.

           She began to examine his face, committing every feature to memory.  She had very rarely ever seen him sleep, despite their close friendship.  Almost without realizing it, she started to brush her fingers over his hair and temple, then his tattoo.  And as she did, she remembered bits and pieces of their history together – Chakotay on her bridge, phaser drawn, face tight with anger; laughing at her as she tried to wheedle his ‘secret’ out of him on New Earth; concentrating on a sand painting; telling her the ancient legend which really wasn’t a legend at all and letting her see all he felt for her; teasing her, flirting with her, angry with her, but always there. 
           She remembered the concern on his face as he tried to coax her out of her quarters in the void, and how he kept trying, refusing to abandon her to her depression.  And his promise – to stay by her side, to put her needs first.  And he had, even when she accused him of betrayal.

           Tears came to her eyes.  ‘I can’t do it,’ she thought.  ‘I just – can’t.  We’ve been through too much for me to abandon him now.  And I owe him – so much.’  With her mind made up, she went back to the reports.

           An hour later, Chakotay stirred.  She was very tempted to soothe him back to sleep, but reflected that he probably wasn’t very comfortable.  His eyes opened and he started to lift his head before moaning slightly, putting his hand to his neck.  Kathryn put down her padd and slid her hands under his shoulders, helping him sit up.

           “Feel better?” she asked.

           “I’m not sure.  I’m very stiff.  I….that was more than five minutes, wasn’t it.”

           “Yes.  You slept for an hour.”

           “Kathryn, I’m sorry.  I’m supposed to be helping you, not going to sleep on the job.”

           “Don’t apologize.  I rather enjoyed watching you.  And I was nearly finished anyway.”

           He grinned a bit self-consciously and stood up, stretching.  “If you don’t need me any more, I better find my bed.  Goodnight, Kathryn.”

           “Goodnight, Chakotay.  And thank you.”

           She continued to sit on the couch, staring into space, as she went over her decision.  The more she thought about it, the better it felt.  She recalled a piece of advice her mother had given her long ago, and decided to sleep on it.  If it still felt right in the morning, then she would set the wheels in motion.  Her mind at rest, she retired to her quarters.

           Early the following day, before reporting for duty, Kathryn Janeway composed a short message to Starfleet Command.  A night’s reflection had confirmed her decision – she was resigning her commission, effective immediately.  She encoded the message for level fifteen clearance (admirals’ eyes only) and sent it, then made her way to the bridge.  Her step was light, her mind at peace.  Once there, she went straight to her ready room, stopping to actually take in the room when the door had closed.  Her room.

           So much had happened here, so many ups and down, laughter and tears, discussions, debates.  When she stopped to listen, she could hear the voices.  Neelix and Kes, asking to join her crew.  A promise to Tuvok to get them home – well, she had kept that one, at least.  Sitting in her chair for the first time after their return from New Earth.  Trying to devise yet one more trick to get them past the latest enemy determined to shoot them down.  Reading Mark’s letter– the sting, although faded, was still there.  The walls decorated with Hirogen trophies.  Kashyk, arrogant bastard that he was, in her chair, lecturing her in that clipped, imperious voice.  And through it all, like an overlay almost, was the presence of Chakotay.

           Standing at attention as she dressed him down for chasing after Seska alone.  Hurt and angry when her deception about Tom Paris was revealed.  Laughing and joyous as she invited him for a sail on the holodeck.  Concerned and caring as they discussed Mark’s defection.  Angry again when she confined him to quarters during the Equinox incident.  Resigned as she told him of Starfleet’s demand for all records pertaining to the Maquis.  More recently, and this one still hurt, cold and indifferent as he ordered Tuvok to kill her.

           His face haunted every corner of this room. She leaned against the railing then straightened.  Best to get on with it.  “Commander Chakotay, report to my ready room.”  Her professional voice, so he would get no hint of her plan before she was ready to tell him.  Seconds later, the chime rang, she called “enter”, and there he stood, just like always.

           “Come in, Commander.  Sit down.  There are some matters I would like to discuss with you.”

           Once the door was closed, she dropped all formality.  “Join me, Chakotay.  Want anything?”

           “Tea, please.”

           She retrieved two cups from the replicator, handing him one as she sat down on the couch.  “Sit, please.” 

           He followed her lead, his expression patient.  She sipped her drink, gathering her thoughts.  A lot depended on her next words.

           “Last night, while you were asleep, I got to thinking – about you, me, us.”  He straightened up a bit, obviously curious, but remained silent.  “I was at a crossroads, you see, one of those turning points where you can actually make a conscious decision to do this, or that, and see quite clearly where each will lead.”  His gaze was concentrated on her face.

           “I guess it would help to show you the latest orders from Starfleet.”  She rose, and crossed to her desk, as he followed.  His eyebrows went up as she replayed Hayes’ message, then he scowled.

           “They didn’t waste any time, did they?”  He turned to look at her.  “Why am I not in the brig?   And what about the rest of the Maquis?  What happens to them?”

           She led the way back to the couch before answering.  “I would hope you know me better than to think I would incarcerate you just because some arrogant admiral thinks I should!   About the others?  I don’t know.  You saw the message.  That’s all there was.”  His scowl grew blacker. 

           Damn!  This wasn’t the topic she wanted to discuss right now.  “There’s something else, though, that I want to talk about.”   She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and turned to face him.

           “Chakotay, I’ve finally worked up the courage to say this to you, so don’t interrupt or I’ll never get it out.  First, I want to apologize for all the times I’ve treated you badly, ignored your good advice and then refused to admit I was wrong, for manipulating you, using you, always taking and never giving anything back.  I’ve been very unfair and I’m sorry.”  He made to speak, but she held up her hand and he subsided.

           “My only excuse – no, that’s not true – my main excuse is that I believed I was acting in the best interests of the ship and the crew.”  She paused for breath.  “My other excuse is that….I was too scared to admit, even to myself, how I really felt about you.”  She looked down then, somewhat embarrassed, but after a moment, her chin came up and she went on, determined to finish.

           “But….now….we’re almost home, and I can’t stall any longer.  I love you, Chakotay, very much.  And I have for a long time.  I know that once upon a time, you loved me.  What I don’t know is whether you still do.”  Again, she held up a hand to stop him.  “I won’t blame you if you don’t, and I really wondered if I should say anything at all, but – I decided in the end, that you have the right to know.  If,” her breath caught a bit, “you don’t love me now, and you want to just say goodbye, then – okay.  I won’t try to change your mind.  But if maybe, you might still….” She ran out of breath at this point, her eyes huge, both fear and determination evident in her expression.

           Chakotay sat silent, going over her words.  He had no doubt she meant every one and he knew how hard it was for her to say them.  Kathryn, like so many able captains, found personal relationships very difficult to handle.  She could face down the deadliest foe, indeed had done so numerous times, without turning a hair, but intimacy in any degree sent her running, terrified, in the opposite direction.

           He would never cease to be amazed by this woman.  Just when he thought he had her figured out, she would throw him a curve ball.  Unconsciously, he smiled and her anxiety abated slightly.  He became aware that she was watching him closely – he really shouldn’t tease her any longer.

           “What about your orders?”

           “I won’t follow them.”

           Typical Kathryn.  Never do anything halfway.  She really looked quite adorable, apprehension warring with hope, written all over her.  He smiled more broadly and nodded his head.  She continued to stare, not understanding.

           “It means ‘yes’, Kathryn,” he explained gently.  “I still love you.”

           Her hand flew to her mouth, joy flooding her face.  “Really?!  After all this time?!”

           He answered by taking her hands in his and lifting them to his mouth, kissing each in turn.  Her eyes closed and she sighed in relief.  “I don’t deserve you, Chakotay, I really don’t.”

           She looked up as he moved closer to her, cradling her face between his hands, bending down to just touch her mouth with his before pulling back.  He smiled at her, then brushed open-mouth kisses on her forehead, her eyes and cheeks before finding her lips again.  She strained against him, wanting more, deeper, harder, hands reaching to the back of his neck to pull him down to her.

           He smiled against her – ‘Kathryn taking command again’ – and let his tongue just run over her lips, first the upper, then the lower, tracing them.  She trembled with excitement and desire, responding forcefully, but he pulled back, and lifted his head.

           She looked a question, her confusion evident.  He caressed her cheek. “Let’s enjoy this, every kiss, every touch.  We’ve waited so long – too long to rush now.”  She smiled and nodded, letting him lead.  He bent to kiss her again, opening her mouth with his tongue, then entering to explore.  Her hands wrapped around his shoulders, enjoying his solid strength.  Oh, he felt so good!  Her mind reeling, she moaned as she clutched him tightly.  She could feel his body responding and gave herself over to the moment, sinking into him, letting instinct take over.

           Again, he pulled back, panting slightly.  “Slow down, love.  Take it easy,” he whispered in her ear.

           “I can’t help it.  You feel so good,” she purred in a sultry voice.  He felt it vibrate right through him and was tempted to give in, but – this wasn’t the time or place.

           He sat up straight, pulling her upright, too.   “Not now, sweetheart.  When we come together, I want it to be as perfect as can be, not some hurried coupling in your ready room.”

           “Ohh,” she moaned, “hurried is okay.”

           “No,” he said more firmly, “not for the first time.”  He bent to her ear.  “Later, I’ll show you ‘hurried’,” his voice growled, full of promise.  “Now I want to talk about what we should tell Starfleet.”

           “I already have.”

           “What do you mean?   What did you tell them?”

           “I resigned my commission.”

           “You what?!  Kathryn!!  What have you done?!”

           “Just what I said.”

           “But….you can’t!  You can’t throw away your career, everything you’ve worked for all your life!  Kathryn, no!!”

           “Well, I have.”  She laid two fingers on his mouth, stifling further protest.  “I’ve thought this through, Chakotay, it’s not an impulsive decision.  Even Tuvok would approve of my logical reasoning.

           “First and foremost, I want to be with you, wherever that may be.  That’s an easy one.  Second, after seven years operating on my own, I don’t think I’ll be able to follow orders very easily again, or jump at every admiral’s whim.  Third, I’ve accomplished my goals – to get my ship and crew home.  Anything else would be anti-climactic, so why not end my career on a high note, go out in a blaze of glory, if you will.  And finally, I don’t want to be part of an organization that has become so vindictive, so petty minded.  That’s not the Starfleet I enlisted in.  They should be profoundly grateful for all that you’ve done, for us, for this ship, not demanding that you be incarcerated!

           “So I sent them my formal letter of resignation this morning.  It’s done.  Period.  End of subject.”

           He sat there, stunned into silence, and stared at her for nearly a full minute before shrugging his shoulders in acceptance.  “Obviously, you have given this a lot of thought.  And I can’t argue with your reasoning.”  He hesitated.  “What about us?  Have you figured that out, too?”

           She nodded, smiling, relaxed now they were past that hurdle.  “As a matter of fact, yes, I have.  The way I see it, we have two options.  Either take the Delta Flyer and leave the ship now, or go back to Earth where you will almost certainly be put on trial.”  Her eyes never left his face.  “I think I know which one you’ll choose, but regardless – I will follow you.”

           Chakotay could hardly believe what he was hearing.  This wasn’t the Kathryn he knew, the one who had to be in control every minute of every day.  He took her face between his hands, gazing deep into her eyes, trying to peer inside, to her soul.  She stared back, letting him see everything she felt, hiding nothing.  He slowly shook his head in amazement.

           “What?  What is it?” she asked.

           “You.  I don’t understand…..Who are you?  Where’s Kathryn Janeway, the captain?  What did you do with her?”

           “She’s gone, resigned her commission, retired.”  She chuckled a bit ruefully.  “A  change that’s long overdue, wouldn’t you say?”

           But he surprised her, shaking his head solemnly.  “No, I don’t agree.  This new you may be a kinder, gentler person, but that one, the captain? she got us here.  Her strength of will and her determination to never give up, brought this ship home.  And,” he smiled in turn, “annoying as she often was, I’ll miss her.”

           “You are far too kind, you know that.  I won’t, not for a while anyway.”  She gestured around the room.  “For seven years, I’ve been in charge, giving the orders, telling everyone else what to do.  Now I’d like someone else to make the decisions.  I’ll let you know if I don’t like them.”

           He burst out laughing.  “I’m sure you will, Kathryn.”  He sat back, relaxed, and pulled her against his chest, her head resting on his shoulder, his lips close to her ear.

           “Happy?” he murmured.

           “Yes.  Very.”

           “I want to go back – to Earth, face whatever charges Starfleet decide to bring against me.  I want to clear my name, start us off with a clean slate.”

           “I thought you would.  I’m prepared for that.”

           “Are you?  They’ll separate us, try to turn you against me.”

           “I know.  And I had a thought about that.”

           “Oh?  What’s that?”

           “Turn command over to Tuvok, which I have to do anyway, and,” she turned her head so she could see his face, “have him marry us.”

           “Kathryn!  I….don’t know what to say.”  He felt her tense, and tightened his hold.  “No, I don’t mean that, but…..are you ready for that kind of commitment?”

           “Yes.”  It was her turn to peer into his soul.  “What about you?”

           He nodded, his face breaking into a huge smile as he bent to kiss her.  “Oh yes.”  She poured her heart into that kiss.  He took it and gave her his own.  They broke apart, each staring in wonder at the other, knowing that from this point on, they would be a pair, two, not one.

           “When?” he asked.

           She shrugged her shoulders.  “Now?”

           “Now.”

           They stood up and hugged tightly for just a moment before parting so that she could summon Tuvok.

           The door chimed, she called him to come in, the situation was quickly explained and command formally transferred.  Tuvok remained stock still, as near to stunned astonishment as a Vulcan could be.  But he could find no flaw in their logic and agreed both to assuming command and their request that he marry them.  He did ask that Kathryn make the announcement to the crew – they wouldn’t believe it otherwise.

           “All hands, this is Kathryn Janeway.” Her familiar husky voice echoed through each deck.  “As of ten minutes ago, I have transferred command of this ship to Commander, now Captain, Tuvok.  I have resigned my commission, effective immediately, and have so notified Starfleet Command.  As your captain for the past seven years, I wish to tell you how much I appreciate the support and loyalty you have given me.  No captain, anywhere, any time, could have had a better crew than I did.  And it is because of your efforts, your strength, that we are here now, home in the Alpha Quadrant.”

           She paused, taking a deep breath, and looked at Chakotay.  He nodded, smiling.  “You should also know that Starfleet Command, in spite of all we’ve been through, has indicated that Commander Chakotay will be charged with treason when we reach Earth.  As yet, there has been no word on what will happen to the rest of the Maquis.   The commander has decided to face these charges and clear his name.  And I know he will do just that.  Since I believe that I can best serve his cause at his side, I have not only resigned from Starfleet but,” she hesitated, then plunged on, “Tuvok is going to marry us in one hour in the mess hall.  You’re all invited.  Janeway out.”

           There was dead silence, then the ready room door flew open.   Tom Paris burst in, Harry Kim on his heels.  One grabbed the former captain, the other the commander and forcibly propelled them onto the bridge.

           The turbolift doors opened and B’Elanna Torres dashed out, grinning wildly.  “Chakotay!  Captain!  This is wonderful!”

           Harry’s replacement at ops reversed the channel so they could all hear the cheering from every deck.  Chakotay took Kathryn’s hand, gripping it tightly and bent down to her.  “I think they’re pleased, don’t you?”

           She laughed in joy, as they were engulfed by their delighted crew and carried off to the mess hall.
 
 

EPILOGUE:
          That evening, exhausted, the newlyweds were finally allowed to retreat to her quarters.  Kathryn collapsed on the sofa, head falling back, as Chakotay headed to the replicator.

           “What a way to start a marriage!  One night for a honeymoon and then it’s off to the brig for the groom and off to – good lord! what am I going to do tomorrow?!”

           He turned, wagging his finger at her.  “Remember, we agreed.  Tonight is all we’re going to think about.  Let tomorrow take care of itself.  Computer, two glasses of French champagne.”  He carried them to her and sat down, putting his feet up on the table, then handed one to her.  “Here’s to us.”

           “I’ll drink to that.”   They both sipped from their glasses. 

           He smiled slightly, his eyes at peace in a way she hadn’t seen for a long time.  “Happy?”

           “Oh yes,” she smiled back.  “Not only for today, but knowing that – no matter what happens or what they try to do, we’re together.  And we’ll stay together – the way we’ve always been meant to.”  She paused, marshalling her thoughts and feelings.  “We’ll make it, Chakotay, I know we will.”

           “I never doubted it for a minute.  Here’s to our future.”  They raised their glasses again, then sat, content to watch the stars, knowing that finally, they were home.
 

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